April 23, 2021 at 01:00PM

Businesses are growing more demanding with their financial service providers, and the moment of onboarding is a critical one in terms of achieving a better customer experience.

Whether a financial institution (FI) must meet corporate’s rising expectations for a seamless onboarding experience or wants to pleasantly surprise these business clients that expect the same old, sluggish, clunky onboarding process, community banks and credit unions (CUs) have a significant opportunity to achieve a competitive edge right at the start of a customer relationship.

Yet for smaller FIs, offering a seamless, automated and now fully virtual onboarding flow for the client is a tricky achievement, Abrigo Vice President of Client Services Nolan Gesher said. In a discussion with PYMNTS, he explored how community banks and CUs can retain the advantage over larger FIs — a deeper connection with business customers — while still embracing digitization from the moment a new customer gets on board.

Onboarding Pains

Any new client, whether a consumer or a large enterprise, wants a hassle-free experience when joining a new FI, and that institution wants the same thing. Yet, especially with businesses, this point can be among the most tedious and manual experiences of the bank-corporate relationship.

Much of that friction comes down to a lack of communication between the various moving parts of the workflow, noted Gesher.

“Treasury services systems don’t talk to the account opening systems. There’s usually no integration with doc prep providers, and so on,” he said, pointing to the tendency for FIs to “Frankenstein” this process together.

On the client side, this means applications and documentation gets mailed or emailed, then has to be filled out, scanned and sent back. What makes the onboarding experience even more frustrating for business customers is that there are typically multiple signers on a single account, meaning all of this hassle is multiplied across those individuals that will have access to accounts and services.

“It’s very difficult, if you don’t automate this, to enable getting all the data from all those signers, gathering it in a simultaneous way, and also avoiding putting kind of the onus on getting all that to a primary account holder,” said Gesher. “The person you most want to treat well is the person you’re asking to do the most work.”

In an effort to help smaller FIs tackle this headache, Abrigo this month announced the launch of Commercial Account Opening software for community banks and CUs. The solution, Gesher noted, not only aims to ease the onboarding process for bank and client, but also introduce new opportunities for these institutions to maintain a competitive edge further down the line.

Keeping Momentum Going

As part of that goal, Abrigo is combining its account opening tool along with a treasury services onboarding solution. The moment of new customer onboarding isn’t just a chance for an FI to provide a positive experience to a corporate right off the bat, but can also actually present a window for those providers to deepen that customer relationship from the start.

By combining account opening with treasury services right at the beginning of the relationship, Gesher said, these providers can ensure client retention.

“One of the bigger problems is that banks typically address treasury services too late in the process,” he said. “A bank or credit union would introduce these treasury services to their customers after they open the account, and at that point they no longer really have the attention of that customer because they’ve already got their account established, it’s been funded, they’re good to go.”

Understanding this opportunity is critical for smaller FIs that have historically relied on in-person meetings to foster that more personal relationship community banks and CUs are known for. In today’s world in which clients seek an all-virtual experience, easing friction and promoting customer stickiness from the start is key.

The pandemic, noted Gesher, certainly has made an impact on business expectations, placing greater pressure on smaller banks to digitize. But it’s also opened up more chances for these providers to gain a competitive edge, especially, he said, considering the troves of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that turned to community banks and CUs to access government aid like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

In order for FIs to capitalize on this opportunity, they must embrace virtual tools that can ease friction for clients, strengthen adoption of more banking products, and offer a better banking experience right from the start.

“Community bankers continue to wake up [to] the need to be more digital, and they’re fast becoming more digital,” Gesher said. “I think they’re starting to level the playing field with some of their bigger competitors.”

The Long-Lasting Effect Of Better Corporate Onboarding …

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